Exterior

All About the View

Minimalist decor and a simple palette mean no distractions from the stunning vista

Patty McDaniel hasn’t yet decided whether she will hang art on the walls of her new house. With the home’s many large windows and the views they offer of marsh, water and sky, she’s not really sure it needs any further embellishment. 

McDaniel’s house is on the western edge of the Bay Vista development near Rehoboth. It overlooks the marsh adjacent to Rehoboth Bay; even on a drizzly day, she can see south to the Charles W. Cullen Bridge that crosses the Indian River Inlet and on to the Bethany Beach water tower. The Lewes-and-Rehoboth Canal is a little more than a thousand feet from her screened porch and just beyond the canal is Thompson Island, part of the Delaware Seashore State Park. When the wind is right, she can hear the crash of the ocean surf about a mile and half to the east.

At nighttime, McDaniel can see the lights of cars traveling on Route 1. Deer visit her yard to eat grass, and frogs and toads call to each other. “One night last summer I slept outside on the porch,” she says. “It was louder than you would think.”

During the day, herons fly from fishing spot to fishing spot and ospreys sit on wooden nesting platforms built in the marsh. On one recent morning, when she was showing her house to a visitor, the conversation was interrupted by the screeches of two ospreys. One flew near a second-story window, a large fish in its talons. The second was nearby, perhaps asking if it could join in the feast. 

McDaniel is founder and owner of Boardwalk Builders near Rehoboth Beach, which is marking its 30th anniversary this year. Her company started construction on the Bay Vista house in May 2014 and she moved in last July. The structure has the highest rating under the National Green Building Standard, developed by the National Association of Home Builders and the International Code Council. The standard considers such factors as indoor environmental quality and the efficient use of energy and water. 

McDaniel’s home is built on a small spit of land that juts out into the wetlands bordering Rehoboth Bay. Before construction could start, she had to obtain a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, which delineated where the wetlands end (the entire structure had to be confined to solid land). Three of its walls are straight and the fourth follows the line of the wetlands, bending so that, overall, the house is roughly the shape of a pentagon. 

The architect was Mark McInturff of Bethesda, Md. He describes the house as an open book, with the spine rising from the corner of the house nearest the intersection of Bay Vista Drive and 11th Street. That corner is a little bit more than 90 degrees, “so it’s like the book is open wide to show off the pages,” he explains. 

The “pages” are formed by a two-story screened porch on the side of the house that follows the wetlands. It — as well as most of the windows — looks over the marsh. “That view is mesmerizing,” McInturff says. In fact, his favorite place in the house is on the porch, “sitting back in the corner and taking in the whole picture. This is one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever worked on.” 

“Working with Mark is always a treat,” McDaniel says. “I love his passion for craftsmanship and creative innovation, which has allowed me to have a home suited to this unique site.”

The porch’s framing, floor and ceiling are made from ipe, a durable wood from the South American tropics, and its railing is made of steel cable. Much of the galvanized steel infrastructure of the home that was needed for the porch is exposed and the weathered look of the ipe and the grays of the cable and beams blend perfectly with the colors of the marsh. “I kept the palette really simple so it didn’t distract from the setting,” McDaniel says. 

That extends to the interior of the house, where the walls are white and the floors are covered in dark brown cork tiles (downstairs) and gray carpet (upstairs). The living room has a gray sofa and two gray chairs. Between them, serving as a kind of coffee table, is a large (about 2 feet by 3 feet) copper, flat-bottomed pan, standing on rusty iron legs. McDaniel says that it was rescued from the garbage by her grandfather, who told his family that he thought it was used to roast pigs. A well in the shallow pan’s corner could have been designed to catch drippings; as it is now, the pan is a great place for McDaniel’s grandchildren to play with marbles. 

The dining table was designed by McInturff. A simple galvanized steel frame holds the fir top, made from a reclaimed beam sawed into boards. Armless wooden chairs are in the style of 20th-century French architect and designer Jean Prouve.

The home’s minimalism extends into the kitchen, which resulted from a design by McInturff that was executed by Oceanic Ventures of Lewes. Cabinets holding plates and glasses are fronted with steel tambour doors, which slide up like the cover of a roll-top desk. Drawers and cabinets are made of fir to match the dining table.

Built-in cabinets line the hallway going past the kitchen and serve as the pantry; more cabinets in the foyer open to reveal a coat closet. To avoid any interruption in the view, even of just a fraction of an inch, there is no trim around the cabinets or interior doors; light switches, instead of being on walls, are mounted on the side of the kitchen island. Similarly, the windows are all big panes of glass, with no dividers or mullions. “We didn’t want anything to interfere with the line of sight,” McDaniel says. 

Near the second-story landing, across the hallway from one of two guest bedrooms, a metal ladder hangs on the wall. Above it is a small hatch that opens onto the flat roof. There’s no deck up there. Even so, exterior walls from the house extend beyond the roof, to enclose the rooftop area. 

Does McDaniel make the climb often? 

“Why would I?” she replies. She’s standing on the second-story landing, where a row of windows in the hallway looks out onto the screened porch, and where a balcony overlooks the dining area and the large windows there. Beyond is a guest bedroom, where two walls are almost all glass. It feels as though all of creation is within her view.

“Before I moved here, I lived in a little ranch house in a development,” McDaniel says. “I didn’t have any kind of view. Now, every time I walk in here, I just pinch myself. I’m coming home to paradise every day.” 

 

Lynn Parks is a regular contributor to Delaware Beach Life.

 

 

Take the Tour

The home of Patty McDaniel will be included on the Rehoboth Art League Cottage Tour of Art, set for July 12 and 13. Homes will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. Tickets are $35. For more information, call 227-8408 or visit the art league website at rehobothartleague.org.